by Aeti Amira
I walked towards the number 22 one-storey bungalow at Jalan Dedap, Setapak, with much anticipation. I cant wait to meet this great man myself. Being an avid fan, I was pratically jumping with joy when I was assigned to do an interview with him. I walk through the gate, and go straight to the pink door, give the salam and knock three times. No answer. I knocked again and I stopped when I heard a honk came behind me. I turned around and I saw him walking from his Datsun 1200cc 1971 model with his wife, Salmah Ismail, also known as Saloma, towards me.
Yes, he is the ultimate Malaya hero, an actor, singer, musician, performer, screenwriter, director, writer (–and the list goes on), P. Ramlee. Born Teuku Zakaria @ Ramli bin Teuku Nyak Puteh in March 22, 1929 to Teuku Nyak Puteh bin Teuku Karim and Che’ Mah Hussein at his grandmother’s house in Counter Hall, Penang, Malaya. He got his formal education from several school; Kampung Jawa Malay School, Francis Light English School (1939 – 1941), Japanese Navy School ‘Kaigun Gakko’ (World War II), Penang Free School (1945 – 1947) however that didn’t stop him to pursue his passion, as he ventured into the entertainment industry at a very young age.
He carved a smile and politely greeted me and directed me to his library where he placed all his trophies and award winning moments pictures along with his family portrait. We were joined by his wife minutes later when the kebaya nyonya-clad lady walked in so elegantly with a tray of tea and kueh on her hands. Join me as we learn more about this shining star.
Q: Before we start our interview, I would like to thank you for taking a time off from your busy schedule for this interview. I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you as I can see, you just got back home.
A: You’re welcome. I’m free today and actually I just got back from buying my favourite Pulut Udang Dobi Ghaut for this interview. I hope you’ll like it.
Q: First of all, I would like to ask how did you get your name P. Ramlee? Is it from your real name?
A: The letter P in my name indicates Puteh, which is my father’s name. I first used this name when I participated in a singing competition brought by Radio Pulau Pinang in 1947 which I won and became Bintang Penyanyi Utama Malaya(Malaya’s Singing Sensation).
Q: How do you get involved in the entertainment industry and how did your transition from music industry to showbiz happened?
A: It is always been my passion. I first learn to play ukelele then I moved to guitar and violin under Mr. Kamaruddin who was my school Penang Free School’s brass band conductor during that time. I love music so much that I went to school for only 10 days a month! The rest, I went to Mr. Kamaruddin’s house, learnt how to play all those music instruments with him. Then I joined the Orkes Teruna Sekampung and later Sinaran Bintang Sore. That was when I picked up my experience in this industry. A year after winning Radio Pulau Pinang’s singing competition, I started a band with my friend, Mohd Yusop and we named it Pancharagam Mustika. “Masuknya saya ke dalam dunia filem hanya secara kebetulan sahaja, kerana tidak pernah terlintas dalam hati saya untuk menjadi seorang pelakon. Secara kebetulan sahaja”. I still remember, it was June 1st, 1948 and we were performing at Agricultural Show in Bukit Mertajam when B. S. Rahjans, a Tamil film director from Malay Film Productions of Jalan Ampas, Singapore came up to me and asked me to go to Singapore. That was my stepping stone into this industry. I then scored my first big screen motion pictures, Chinta, and the rest, lets just say, were history.
Q: Do you have a personal favourite out of all your movies?
A: It’s hard to pick one when you have 66 films! But yes, of course! I would say Penarek Becha(The Trishaw Man). That is the first film directed by myself. Plus I was the lead actor in that film and I won Best Malay Film on 1956 with that film. To be a first time director and won that big of an award is truly a bless to me.
Q: What are the awards you won and which is the most special for you.
A: I have won 23 awards altogether including Best Musical Score for Hang Tuah in Third Asian Film Festival, Hong Kong, Best Male Actor for Anak-ku Sazali (My son, Sazali) in Fourth Asian Film Festival, Tokyo, Best Comedy Film for Nujum Pak Belalang (The Fortune Teller) in Seventh Asian Film Festival, Tokyo, Most Versatile Talent for Ibu Mertua Ku (My Mother In-law) in Tenth Asian Film Festival, Tokyo (1963) and Best Comedy Film for Madu Tiga (Three Wives) in Eleventh Asian Film Festival, Taipei. I was also offered an award by Oscar Golden Harvest for my film Hang Tuah but I rejected it respectfully because of personal reasons. Talking about the most special award for me, it’s got to be the title Ahli Mangku Negara by DYMM Yang Dipertuan Agung Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, at Istana Negara Kuala Lumpur on 3 Jun 1964. I was very honored to get such an award by our own Agong.
Q: You’re a star yourself but is there any other actor or artist that you want to be?
A: I wouldn’t say I want to be him but there is one guy I really envy of! He is friend and fellow actor, S. Shamsuddin. I’m just jealous how he can copy voices including mine and he can sing exactly like me even if he listens to them only once. It took hours for me to really record a song, and it only takes him minutes! That is, my friend, a real talent! Plus, he is the only actor out there who can perform better than I do.
“Dalam banyak-banyak pelakon, hanya S Shamsuddin yang dapat menggayakan lakonan yang lebih menarik daripada apa yang saya tunjukkan.” -P. Ramlee on S.Shamsuddin, 1961.
Q: Last but not least, what are you doing now? Is there any new projects or movies coming up for the Malaya film lovers and of course your fans?
A: I just finished the final process for my latest film, Laksamana Do Re Mi. This comedy film is a sequel to Nasib Do Re Mi and it is about three friends, Do, Re and Mi all acted by myself, and famous actors A.R. Tompel and Ibrahim Din. So to all my fans out there! Be sure to catch it!
What others think of the legendary P. Ramlee?
Now that you know P. Ramlee, do let us know which P. Ramlee movies is your favourite!
***No actual interview was conducted. It is purely fictional however all the information in the article are true based on various sources.
For more information on Tan Sri Dr. P. Ramlee: